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  NBC    News 4 Midday    News  News/Business. New. (CC)  

    September 10, 2010
    11:00 - 12:00pm EDT  

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. good morning. welcome to this special nbc report. president obama is to host a conference, the eighth of his presidency. it comes as a particularly challenging time for this president. 60% of americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction. that according to the latest nbc wall street journal poll. clearly, not what the president wants to hear. there are some major issues on the plate as well from the struggling economy to high unemployment numbers. the proposed islamic community center and mosque near ground zero and one florida's church's threat to burn the koran tomorrow on the ninth anniversary on the 9/11 attacks.
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nbc's chuck todd will be a reporter. we don't know what the folks like you are going to ask the president. what does the president want to talk about? >> reporter: the president wants to talk about one issue, the issue number one in our polling at tables, that's the economy. he is hoping to have bullet ton holed this week. he did a big rally in milwaukee on monday, the big speech in cleveland where he tried to draw a distinction between who could be the next speaker of the house, john boehner, and himself and trying to draw a distinction between democratic ideas for the economy and republican ideas. he is walking in. i will leave it there. >> chuck, thanks. as i said in cleveland on wednesday, i ran for president, because i believed the policies of the previous decade had left
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our economy weaker and our middle class struggling. there were policies that cut taxes, especially for millionaires and billionaires and cut regulations for corporations and for special interests and left everyone else pretty much fending for themselves. there were policies that ultimately culminated in a financial crisis and a terrible recession we are still digging out of today. we came into office with a different view about how our economy should work. instead of tax cuts for millionaires, we believe in cutting taxes for middle class families and small business owners. we've done that. instead of letting corporations play by their own rules, we believe in making sure that businesses treat workers well and consumers friendly and play by the same rules as everyone else. so we've put in place common
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sense rules that accomplish that. instead of tax breaks that encourage corporations to create jobs overseas, we believe in tax breaks for companies that create jobs right here in the united states of america. so we've gun to do that. we believe in investments that will make america more competitive in the global economy, investments in education and clean energy and research and technology and we're making those investments. these are the principles that have guided us over the last 19 months. these are the principles that form the basis of the additional economic proposals that i offered this week, because even though the economy is growing again and we've added more than 750,000 private sector jobs this year, the hole in the recession left was huge. progress has been painfully slow. millions of americans are still looking for work. millions of families are
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struggling to pay their bills or the mortgage. these proposals are meant to both accelerate job growth in the short-term and strengthen the economy in the long-run. these proposals include a more generous permanent extension of the tax credit that go to companies for all the research and innovation that they do here in america. i have proposed that all american businesses should be allowed to write off all the investments they do in 2011. this will help small businesses upgrade their plants and equipment and will encourage large corporations to get off the sidelines and start putting their profits to work in our economy. we also announced a six-year plan to rebuild america's roads and railways and runways. already, our investments in infrastructure are putting folks in the construction industry back to work. this plan would put thousands more back to work. it would help us remain
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competitive with countries in europe and asia that have already invested heavily in projects like hide-speed railroads. one thing we can do next week is end a month-long standoff on a small business jobs' bill that's been held up in the senate by a partisan minority. i realize there are plenty of issues in washington where people of good faith simply disagree on principle. this should not and is not one of those issues. this is a bill that does two main things. it gives small business owners tax cuts and it helps them get loans. it will eliminate capital tax gain taxes for key investments in 1 million small businesses. it will provide innocent tcenti.
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it is a bill that's paid for and won't add to the deficit, written by democrats and republicans. it's a bill that's been praised by the claim bhamber of commerc. some have prevented the bill from getting to a vote. i was pleased to see that yesterday, republican senator george voinavich of ohio said this country is hurting and we don't have time anymore to play games. i could not agree more. i understand there is an election coming up. the american people didn't accepted us here to think about our jobs. they sent us here to think about theirs. there are small businesses putting off plans to hire more workers because this bill is stalled. that's not the kind of leadership this country
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deserves. i hope we can now move forward to get small business owners the relief they need to start hiring and growing again. more on the subject of economics. i also want to make an announcement about my economic team. this week, kristina roamer returned to berkley after a tireless outstanding tenure of the chair of economic advisers. kristy is brilliant, dedicated. she was part of the team that helped save this country from a depression. we are going to miss her dearly. today, i am happy to announce austan goolsbee as her replacement. he has been one of my good friends and close economic advisors for many years. he is one of the finest economists in the country. he has worked ad a member of the council of economic advisers since we arrived in washington. he has a deep appreciation of how the economy affects everyday
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people. he talks about it in a way that's easily understood. he already knows and works with the rest of the team very well. i have complete confidence he is going to do an outstanding job as cea chair. finally, tomorrow, we will commemorate not only the heartbreak of september 11th but also the enduring values and resilient spirit of america. both michelle and i will be joining our fellow citizens in remembering those who were lost on that day and honoring all who exhibited such extraordinary heroism in the midst of tragedy. i will have further remarks for tomorrow. for now, let me just note that tomorrow is a nation daily of service and remembrance. i hope each of us finds a way to serve our fellow citizens, not only to reaffirm our deepest values as americans but to rekindle that spirit of unity and common purpose that we felt in the days that followed that
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september morning. now, i would be happy to take some questions. i am going toxd start with darle supperville. >> reporter: thank you, mr. president. you said this week that democrats wouldn't do well in the november election if it turns out to be a referendum on the economy but with millions of people out of work and millions of people losing their homes, how could it not be a referendum on the economy and your handling of it and why would you not welcome that? >> well, what i said was that if it was just a referendum on whether we've made the kind of progress that we need to, then people around the country would say, we're not there yet. if the election is about the policies that are going to move us forward versus the policies that will get us back into a mess, then i think the democrats will do very well.
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here is why. as i just indicated, middle class families have been struggling for a decade before i came into office. their wages and incomes had flatlined. they were seeing the costs of everything from health care to sending their kids to college going up. job growth was the weakest of any economic expansion between 2001 and 2008 since world war ii. the pace was slower than it's been over the last year. so these policies of cutting taxes for the wealthiest americans and stripping away regulations that protect consumers, running up a record surplus to a record deficit, those policies finally culminated in the worst financial crisis we have had
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since the great depression. for 19 months, what we have done is steadily worked to avoid a depression, to take an economy that was contracting rapidly and make it grow again, a situation where we are losing 750,000 jobs a month and now we've had eight consecutive months of private sector job growth and made investments that are going to strengthen the economy over the long-term. we are not there yet. we lost 4 million jobs in the six months before i was sworn in. we lost 8 million jobs total during the course of this recession. that is a huge hole to dig ourselves out of. people who have lost their jobs around the country and can't find one, moms who are sending out resumes and not getting calls back, wore reed about losing homes, not being able to pay bills, they are not feeling
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good right now. i understand that. i ran precisely because i did not think middle class families in this country were getting a fair shake. i ran because i felt that we had to have a different economic philosophy in order to grow. that middle class and grow our economy over the long-term. for all the progress we have made, we are not there yet. that means the people are frustrated and that means people are angry. since i'm the president and democrats have controlled the house and the senate, it's understandable that people are saying, what have you done? but between now and november, what i'm going to remind the american people of is that the policies that we have put in place have movedxd us in the rit direction. the policies that the republicans are offering right now are the exact policies that got us into this mess.
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it's not a situation where they went and reflected and said toñ themselves, you know what, we didn't do some things right. so we've got a whole bunch of new ideas out here that we want to present to you that we think are going to help put us on the path of strong growth. that's not what happens. the chairman of their committee has said, we would do the exact same things as we did before obama took office, but we know where that led. a perfect example is the debate we're having on taxes right now. i have said that middle class families need tax relief right now. i'm prepared to work on a bill and sign a bill this month that would ensure that middle class families get tax relief. 97% of americans make less than $250,000 a year, $250,000 a year
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or less. i'm saying we can give those families, 97%, permanent tax relief. by the way, for those who make more than $250,000, they still get tax relief on the first $250,000. they just wouldn't get it for income above that. now, that seems like a common sense thing to do. what i've got is the republicans holding middle class tax relief hostage because they are insisting we've got to give tax relief to millionaires and billionaires to the tune of about $100,000 per millionaire. that would cost over the course of ten years, $700 billion. the economists say is probably the worst way to stimulate the economy. that doesn't make sense.
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that's an example of what this election is all about. if you want the same kind of skewed policies that led us to this crisis, then the republicans are ready to offer that. if you want policies that are moving us out, even though you may be frustrated, even though change isn't happening as fast as you wouldxd like, then i thi democrats are going to do fine in november. karen? >> reporter:÷dxd thank you, mr. president. you are looking for represent help on the economic proposals that you unveiled this week. youxd also mentioned the small businessxd sales but you are at odds with them over tax cuts. is there room for a middle ground where the tax cuts on the wealthy could be extend ford a period of time and then allowed to expire? >> well, certainly, there is going to be room for discussion. my hopexd is that on this small
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business bill that is before the senate right now, that we actually make some progress. i still don't understand why we didn't pass that two months ago. i said, this was written by democrats and republicans. this is a bill thatxd traditionally, you would probably get 90% or 100% republican support. we have been playing politics for the last several months. and if the republican leadership is prepared to get serious about doing something for families that are hurting out there, i would love to talk to them. now, on the high income tax cuts, my position is, let's get done what we all agree on. what they have said is that they agree that the middle class tax cuts should be made permanent. let's work on that. let's do it. we can have further conversation about how they want to spend an
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additional $700 billion to give an average of $100,000 to millionaires. the that is a bad idea. if you are going to spend that money, there are better ways of spending it. these are folks that are concerned about the deficit. why would wexd borrow money on policies that won't help the economy and help people who don't need help but setting that aside, we've got an area of agreement, which is let's help families out there who are having a tough time. we could this month give every american certainty and tax relief upxd to $250,000 a year. every single american would benefit from that. now, people who make $250,000 a
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year or less, they would benefit on all their income. people who make $1 million would benefit on a quarter of their income. the that we can all agree to. why hold it up? why hold the middle class hostage in order to do something that most economists don't think makes sense? [ inaudible question ] >> what i'm saying is let's do what we agreed to and that the american people overwhelmingly agreed to, which is, let's give certainty to families out there that are having a tough time. chip reid? >> reporter: thank you, mr. president. on the economic package that you rolled out earlier this week, first, on the business tax cuts, why did you wait until this
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super-heated campaign season to roll it out? a lot of your critics and even some democrats say, clearly, he is just using this for political purposes. he doesn't have any expectation it is going to be passed. it's a political weapon. why did you wait so long to bring that out? on the stimulus part, we can't get people in the white house to say it is a stimulus. $50 billion for road and other infrastructure. they avoid the word stimulus like the plague. is that because the original stimulus is so unpopular and, if so, why is it unpopular? >> let me go back to when i first came into office. we had an immediate task, which was to rescue an economy that was tipping over a cliff. we put in place an economic plan that 95% of economists say substantially helps us avoid a
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depression. one-third of those were tax cuts, tax cuts for individuals and for small businesses. so we haven't -- this notion that we waited until now to put forward a series of plans, just on the small business issue alone, we have cut taxes for small businesses eight times during the course of the last 18 months. we are hardly johnnie come latelies on this issue. when you put all the things we've done together, it has made a difference. 3 million people have jobs that wouldn't have them otherwise. had we not taken these steps. the economy would be in much worse shape. as i said before, we are not where we need to go yet, which means that if we are not there yet, what else can we do? the proposals that we have put forward are ones that historically have garnered
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bipartisan support. a research and development tax credit so that companies that are investing research here in the united states, which is part of what's going to keep us growing and keep us innovative, let's make sure that companies are strongly incentivized to do that, making sure that they are expensing, accelerated business depreciation is happening in 2011 so that if somebodies are sort of sitting on the sidelines right now not sure whether they should invest, let's give them an incentive to invest now to give that a jump-start. on infrastructure, we've got a highway bill that traditionally is done every six years. what we are saying is, let's ramp up what we are doing, let's beef it upxd a little bit, becae we have got this infrastructure all across the country that everybody from governors to mayors to economists to engineers of all political types have said is holding us back in terms of our long-term
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competitiveness. let's get started now rebuilding america. in terms of paying for some of these things, let's stop giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas, let's stop incentivizing that. let's give tax breaks to those in america. historically, as you know, you have been around this time, republicans and democrats agree on infrastructure. they agree on making sure that research and development investments are made right here in the united states. let's get it done. it has nothing to do with the notion that somehow what we did previously didn't work. it worked. it just hasn't done as much as we needed to do. we still have a long ways to go. we are going to keep on doing it. >> reporter: so this is a second
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stimulus? >> here is how i would -- there is no doubt that everything that we've been trying to do, everything we've within trying to do is designed to stimulate growth and additional jobs in the economy. that's our entire agenda. so i have no problem with people saying the president is trying to stimulate growth in hiring. isn't that what i should be doing? i would assume that's what the republicans think we should do, to stimulate growth and jobs. i will keep on trying to stimulate growth and jobs for as long as i am president of the united states. hanz nichols? >> reporter: it's now been more than two months since a
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financial reform bill has been passed. a center piece was the consumer financial protection bureau and yet you haven't named the head. is elizabeth warren still a leading candidate? if not, are you worried about some kind of senate hurdle for her confirmation. >> this is a great opportunity to talk to the american people about what i do think is going to be hugely helpful to middle class families in the years and decades to come, that is an agency that has been set up, an independent agency, whose sole job is to protect families in their financial transactions. if you are getting a credit card, we are going to have an agency that makes sure that that credit card company can't jack up your rates without any reason, including on old balances. that could save american consumers tens of billions of dollars just in the first couple of years. if you are out there looking for
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a mortgage and we all know that part of the problem with the financial crisis was that folks were pedaling mortgages that were unstable, that had huge balloon payments that people didn't fully understand well. now, there is going to be some oversight in terms of how mortgages are shaped and people are going to have to know what they are getting, what they are buying into. that's going to protect the economy as well as individual consumers. so this agency, i think, has the capacity to really provide middle class families the kind of protection that's been lacking for too long. now, the idea for this agency was elizabeth warren's. she is a dear friend of mine, somebody that i i have knohave e i was in law school. i have been in conversations with her. she is a tremendous advocate for this idea.
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it's only been a couple of months. this is a big task standing up this entire agency. i will have an announcement soon about how we are going to move forward. i think what's fair to say is that i have had conversations with elizabeth over the course of these couple of months but i'm not going to make an official announcement until it is ready. >> are you unofficially concerned about a senate confirmation? >> i am concerned about all senate confirmation these days. if i nominate somebody who -- >> with respect to elizabeth warren, are you -- >> hans, i wasn't trying to be funny. i am concerned about all senate nominations these days. i have got people who have been waiting for six months to get confirmed who nobody has an official objection to and who were voted out of committee unanimously and i can't get a vote on it. we have judges who are pending,
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we've got people who are waiting to help us on critical issues like homeland security. and it's very hard when you've got a determined minority in the senate that insists on a 60-vote filibuster on every person we are trying to confirm. even if after we break the filibuster, it turns out they get 90 votes, they are just playing games. as the senator said very well, it is time to stop playing games. all right. chuck todd? >> reporter: given the theme of all of your answers, i just have a short question for you. how have you changed washington? >> well, i'll tell you how we've changed washington. prior to us getting here, as i indicated before, you had a set
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of policies that were skewed towards special interests, skewed towards the most powerful and ordinary families out there were being left behind. since we've gotten here, whether it is making sure that folks who can't get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions cannot get health insurance or children who didn't have coverage now have coverage, whether it is making sure that credit card companies have to actually post in understandable ways what your credit card rates are. they can't jack up existing balances in arbitrary ways, whether it is making sure that we've got clean water and clean air for future generations, whether it is making sure that tax cuts go to families that need it as opposed to folks that don't. on a whole range of issues over the last 18 months, we've put in
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place policies that are going to help grow a middle class and lay the foundation for long-term economic growth. now, if you are asking why haven't i been able to create a greater spirit of cooperation in washington, i think that's fair. i'm as frustrated as anybody by it. part of it has to do with the fact that when we came into office,we came in under very tough economic circumstances. i think that some of the republican leaders made a decision, we are going to sit on the sidelines and let the democrats try to solve it. so we got a lot of resistance very early. i think what's also true is that when you take on tough issues
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like health care or financial regulatory reform where special interests are deeply entrenched. there is a lot of money at stake for them and where the issues are so complicated it drags on for a long time, you end up having a lot of big fights here in town and it's messy and frustrating. there is no doubt that an option that was available to me when i came in was not to take on those issues. i mean, we could have decided, you know what, even though we know that the pace of accelerating health cost is going to bankrupt this economy and bankrupt businesses and bankrupt individuals and even though we know there are 30 million people and that's a
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growing number of people who don't have health insurance, we could have said, that's just too controversial, let's not take it all. we could have said with respect to financial regulatory reform, you know what, we're just going to get too much resistance from republicans. we shouldn't take that on. i don't think that's the kind of leadership that the american people would want from their president. are there things that i might have done during the course of 18 months that would at the margins have improved some of the tone in washington? probably. is some of this just a core difference in approach in terms of how we move this country forward between democrats and republicans? i would say the answer is a lot
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more the latter. >> reporter: nine years after the september 11th attack, why do you think it is we are seeing criticism against islam since it has been one of your priorities to improve relations with the muslim world? >> you know, i think that at a time when the country is anxious generally and going through a tough time, fears can surface, suspicions, divisions can surface in a society. so i think that plays a role in
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it. one of the things that i most admired about president bush was afterxd 9/11, him being crystal clear about the fact that we were not at war with islam. we were at war with terrorists and murderers who had perverted islam, had stolen it's its banner to carry out the outrageous acts. i was so proud of the country rallying around that notion that we are not going to be divided by religion, ethnicity. we are all americans. we stand together against those who would like to do us harm. that's what we have done over the last nine years and we should take great pride in that i think it is absolutely important now for the overwhelming majority of the american people to hang on to
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that thing that is best in us. a belief in religious tolerance, clarity about who our enemies are, our enemies are al qaeda and their allies who are trying to kill us but have killed more muslims than just about anybody else on earth. we have to make sure that we don't start turning on each other. i will do everything i can as long as i am president of the united states to remind the american people we are one nation under god. we may call that god different names. we remain one nation. as somebody who relied heavily on my christian faith in my job,
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i understand, you know, that the passions that religious faith can raise but i'm also respectful that people of different faiths can practice their religion, even if they don't subscribexdxd toxd the ex same notions that i do and that they are still good people and they are my neighbors and my friends and they are fighting alongside us in our battles. i want to make sure that this country retains that sense of purpose. i think tomorrow is a wonderful day for us to remind ourselves of that. natasha, is she here?
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there you are back there. >> reporter: mr. president, back with the palestinian and israeli leaders, they are less ready for the historic compromise. the president said they don't recognize israelñi as a jewish state. the question is, will this admin disengage if the talks fail at an early stage or will you step up and get in a personal involvement? >> president abbas and prime minister netanyahu were here last week. they came with a sense of purpose and seriousness that frankly exceeded a lot of people's expectations. what they said was that they were serious about negotiating. they affirmed the goal of
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creatingñi two states living si by side in peace and security. they have set up a schedule where they are going to meet every two weeks. we are actively participating in that process. secretary of state, hillary clinton, will be flying to the middle east for the first series of nengs meetings on september 14th and 15th. so what we've done is to bring the parties together, to try to get them to recognize that the path for israeli security and palestinian sovereignty can only be met through negotiations and these are going to be tough negotiations. there are enormous hurdles between now and our end point. they are going to be a whole bunch of folks in the region
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that want to undermine these negotiations. we saw it when hamas carried out these horrific attacks against civilians and specifically said we are going to try to do this to undermine peace talks. there are going to be rejectionists that suggest it can't happen and cynics who just believe that the çómistrust between the sides is too deep. we understood all that. we understood it was a risk for us to promote these discussions but it is a risk worth taking, because i firmly believe that it is in america's national security interest as well as israel's national security interests as well as in the interest of the palestinian people to riarrive at a peace
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treat. the reason president netanyahu was comfortable coming here, he has seen that my administration is unequivocal in our defense of israel's security. we have engaged in unprecedented cooperation withxd israel to ma sure that they can deal with any external problems. i think he also came here understanding to maintain israel as a jewish 3(kqñ which i also a democratic state, this has to be dealt with. i think president abbas came here despite great misgivings understanding that the window for creating a palestinian estate is closing. there are a whole bunch of parties that report to be friends of the palestinians and do everything they can to avoid the path that would lead to a palestinian state,ñi that would actually lead to their goal. so the two parties need each other. that doesn't mean it is going to work.
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ultimately, it is going to be up to them. we can facilitate. we can encourage. we can tell them that we will stand behind them in their efforts and are willing to contribute as part of the broader international community in making this work but ultimately, the parties have to make these decisions for themselves. i remain hopeful but this is going to be tough. i don't want anybody out there thinking that it is going to be easy. the main point i want to make is it is a risk worth taking. the alternatives a status quo that is unattain believe. if these talks break down werks are going to keep on talking. it has an opportunity to change the tra tee jik landscape in the middle east in a way that would be very helpful. it would help us deal with an iran that has not been willing
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to give>5j their nuclear program, help us deal with terrorist organizations in the region. so this is something in our interest. we are not just doing this to feel good. we are doing it because it will help secure america as well. jay tapper? >> reporter: thank you, mr. president. a couple questions. first, were you concerned at all when the administration had secretary of defense gates call this pastor in floor rida, thatu were elevating somebody clearly from the fringe and more substantively, on health care reform, this is six months since health care passed, you pledged that you would bend the cost curve and democrats would be able to campaign on this and cms
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reported yesterday that the skost curve is bending up from 6.1% to 6.3% post health care legislation. the only dem kralths i see talking about health care legislation are running tv ads saying they voted against it. >> with respect to the individual down in florida, let me just say that -- let me repeat what i said a couple ofx days ago. the idea that we would burn the sacred text of someone else's religion is contrary to what this country stands for. it is contrary to what this nation was founded on. my hope is that this individual prays on it and refrains from doing it but i'm also commander and chief and we are seeing today riots in kabul, riots in
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afghanistan that threaten our young men and women in uniform. so we've got an obligation to send a very clear message that this kind of behavior or threats of action put our young men and women in harm's way. it's also the best imaginable recruiting tool for al qaeda. although this may be one individual in florida, part of my concern is to make sure we don't start having a whole bunch of folks all across the country think this is is the way to get attention. this is a way of endangering oui troops, our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives who are sacrificing for us to keep us safe. you don't play games with that.
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so i hardly think we are the ones who elevated this story but it is in the age of the internet something that can cause us profound damage around the world. so we've got to take it seriously. with respect to health care, what i said during the debate is the same thing i am saying now and the same thing i will see three or four years from now, bending the cost curve on health carexd is hard to do. we've got hundreds of thousands of providers and doctors and systems and insurers. what we did was we took every idea out there about how to reduce or at least slow the cost
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of health care over time but i said at the time, it wasn't going to happen tomorrow. it wasn't going to happen next year. it took is decades to get into a position where our health care costs were going up 6%, 7%, 10% a year. so our goal is to slowly bring down those costs. now, we've done so also by making sure that 31 million people who aren't getting health insurance are going to start getting it. we have now implemented the first phase of health care in a way that, by the way, has been complimented, even by the opponents of health care reform. it has been smooth. middle class families all across america are going to be able to say to themselves, starting this month, if i've got a kid who is under 26 and doesn't have health
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insurance, that kid can stay on my health insurance. if i've got a child with a pre-existing conditions, an ensur ensurer can't deny me coverage. the insurance company can't arbitrarily drop my coverage if i get sick. there are 4 million small businesses around the country who are already eligible and in some cases will be receiving a 35% tax break on health care for their employees. i have already met small businesses around the country that say, because of that, i am going to be able to provide health care for my employees. i thought it was the right thing to do. >> reporter: the study from february predicted a 6.1% health care increase and now post, it is 6.3%. so it seems to have bent it up. >> as i said, i haven't read the entire study.
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maybe you have. if what the reports are saying is true, what they are saying is as a consequence of us getting 30 million additional people health care at the margins, that's going to increase our costs. we knew that. we didn't think we were going to cover 30 million people for free but that the long-term trend in terms of how much the average family is going to bexd paying r health insurance is going to be improved as a consequence of health care. so our goal on health care is if we can get instead of health care costs going up 6% a year, it is going up at the level of inflation, maybe slightly above inflation, we have made huge progress. that is the single most important thing we could do it in terms of reducing our deficit. that's why we did it. that's why it is important and we are going to implement it effectively. >> the house democrats running against health care, if you
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could comment on that? >> we are in a political season where every candidate out there has their own district, their own makeup, their own plan, theirxd own message. in an environment where we have still got ñi9.5% unemployment, people are going to make the best argument they can right now and they are going to be taking polls of what their particular constituents are saying and trying to align with that oftentimes. that's how political races work? >> april? >> reporter: thank you, mr. president. i want to ask a couple questions. on the economy, could you discuss your efforts at reviewing history as it relates to the power of the agenda, lbj
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and dr. king and also since senate republicans are holding up the issue of cobell and for d two, can you make any assurances before you leave office that you will make sure that those awards are funded? >> let me take the second question first for those that weren't familiar, cobell and pickford relate to settlements surrounding historic discrimination against minority farmers who weren't oftentimes provided the same benefits as everybody else under the usda. it is a fair settlement. it is a just settlement. we think it is important for congress to naufund that settlement. we are going to continue to make it a priority. with respect to the history of fighting poverty, you know, i got my start in public service
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as a community organizer working in the shadow of steel plants that have been closed in some of the poorest neighborhoods on the south side of chicago. that's what led me to want to serve. i am constantly thinking about how do we create ladders for communities and individuals to climb into the middle class. now, i think the history of anti-poverty efforts is, this most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there. the single most important thing we can do. it is more important than any program we could set up, more important than any transfer payment that we could have. if we can grow the economy faster and create more jobs,
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then everybody is swept up into that virtue us cycle. if the economy is shrinkingxd a things are going badly, then the folks who are most vulnerable are going to be those poorest communities. so whatñr we want to focus on right now is broad-based job growth and broad-based economic expansion. we are doing so against some tough head winds. as i said, we are coming out of a very difficult time. we've started to turn the corner. we are not their yet. that is going to be my central focus. how do i grow the economy? how do i make sure there is more job growth? that doesn't mean there aren't some targeted things we can do to help communities that are especially in need.xd the most important thing we can
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do after the economy generally is how can we improve school systems in low-income communities? i am very proud of the efforts that we've made on education reform which have received praise from democrats and republicans. this is one area where actually we have seen some good bipartisan cooperation. if we can make sure we have the very best teachers in the classroom, if we can award excellence instead of immediate objecting krit objecting kritty and the status quo and make sure we are tracking progress in real serious ways and willing to make investments in what goes on in the classroom and not the school bureaucracy and reward innovation, schools can improve. there are models of schools in
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the toughest inner city neighborhood that are now graduating kids, 90% of whom are going to college. the key is, how do we duplicate those? they have said to every state around the country, instead of getting money based on a formula, we want you to compete. show us how you are reforming your school systems to promote excellence. if you do that, we will reward you with extra money. the competition alone has actually spurred 46 states so far to initiate legislation deseened to reform the school system. we are very proud of that. that's going to be one of the most important things we can do. it is not just k through 12. it is also higher education. as a consequence of a battle that we had and it was a
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contentious battle in congress, we have been able to take tens of billions of dollars that were going to banks and financial intermediaries and the student loan program and said, we are going to give the money directly to students so that they get more help going to college. obviously, poor kids are going to benefit most from those programs. >> reporter: thank you, mr. president. two questions. one on afghanistan. how can you lecture hamid karzai about corporation when so many of these corrupt people are on the u.s. payroll? on the middle east, do you believe that israeli prime minister, benjamin netanyahu should extend the settlement moratorium as a gesture to peace? if he doesn't, what are you
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prepared to do to stop the palestinians from walking? >> on afghanistan, we are in the midst of a very difficult but very important project. i just want to remind people why we are there the day before september 11th. we are there because that was the place where al qaeda launched an attack that killed 3,000 americans. we want to make surexd we dismantle al qaeda and that afghanistan is never again used as a base for attacks against americans an the american homeland. afghanistan is also the second poorest country in the world. it has an illiteracy rate of
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70%. it has a multi-ethnic population that mistrusts often times each other. it doesn't have a tradition of a strong central government. so what we have done is to xdsa we are going to after seven years of drift, after seven years of policies in which we weren't effectively training afghan security forces, what we've done is to say we are going to work with the afghan government to train afghan security forces so they can be responsible for their own security. we areçó going to promote a political settlement in the region. that can help to reduce the violence. we are going to encourage a afghan government that can deliver services for its people
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and we are going to try to make sure that as part of helping president karzai stand up, this broadly accepted legitimate government that corruption is reduced. we have made progress on some of those fronts. when it comes to corruption, i'll give you an example, four years ago, 11 judges in the afghan legal system were indicted for corporation. this year, 86 were indicted for corruption. we have seen afghan-led efforts that have gone after police commanders, significant business people in afghanistan but we're a long way from where we need to be on this. every time i talk to president
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karzai, i say that as important as it is as important as it is for us to help you to train your military and your police forces, the only way that you are going to have a stable government over the long term is if the afghan people feel you are looking out after them, and that means making sure that the tradition of corruption in the government is reduced. we are going to keep on putting pressure on them on that front. is it going to happen overnight? probably not. are there going to be occasions where we look and see that some of our folks on the ground have made compromises with people who are known to have engaged in corruption? well, we are reviewing all of that constantly, and there may be occasions where that happens, and i think that you are certainly right, helen, that we have the make sure that we are not sending a mixed message
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here. one thing i have said to the national security team is let's be consistent in terms of how we operate across agencies. let's make sure that our efforts there are not seen as somehow giving a wink and nod to corruption. if we are saying publicly that that's important, then the actions have to match up across the board. but it is a challenging environment in which to do that. now, with respect to prime minister netanyahu and the middle east. a major bone of contention during the course of this month is going to be the potential lapse of the settlement moratorium. the irony is that when president netanyahu put the moratorium in place, the palestinians were skeptical, and they said,

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